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Benedikt Schack
1758 - 1826
Czech Republic / Austria
Picture Picture
B. Schack
Benedikt Schack (07/02/1758 - 10/12/1826), an Austrian composer of Bohemian origin (from Mirotice). Schack was born February 7, 1758 in Mirotice, in what is now the Czech Republic, but at the time was in the Bohemian provinces of the Austrian Empire. Like Joseph and Michael Haydn, he worked as a chorister as a child, singing from 1773 in the cathedral in Prague, then moved to Vienna (1775) to study medicine, philosophy and singing. His voice teacher in Vienna was Carl Friberth, a tenor who performed under Joseph Haydn. Later, Schack worked for several years as Kapellmeister to Prince Heinrich von Schönaich-Carolath in Silesia.
In 1786, Schack joined the traveling theatrical troupe of Emanuel Schikaneder, working both as a tenor and as a composer of Singspiele. The troupe settled in Vienna in 1789, performing in the suburban Theater auf der Wieden.
It was around this time that Schack became a friend and professional colleague of Mozart, who was gradually increasing his involvement with Schikaneder's troupe. Schack apparently asked his friend for advice and help in composing, and the level of assistance evidently increased. The following anecdote was published in the Baierisches Musik-Lexikon by Felix Joseph Lipowsky (Munich, 1811):
Mozart often came to Schack to fetch him for a stroll; while Schack dressed he would sit at the writing desk and compose here and there a piece in Schack's operas. Thus several passages in Schack's operas derive from Mozart's own hand and genius. In 1790, Schack and his fellow singer-composers of the Schikaneder troupe collaborated to write an opera Der Stein der Weisen ("The Philosopher's Stone"). Mozart also played a part in its composition, contributing a duet ("Nun liebes Weibchen," K. 625/592a) and perhaps other passages. This fairy-tale opera can be considered a kind of precursor to The Magic Flute; it employed much the same cast in similar roles.
When The Magic Flute (music by Mozart, libretto by Schikaneder) premiered in 1791, Schack took the role of Tamino. According to the New Grove, "it is to be presumed that he also played Tamino's flute solos", though other scholars disagree. An 1815 source indicates that Schack sang the role a total of 116 times.
Only two months after the Magic Flute premiere, Mozart died. According to a story that first appeared in an anonymous obituary of Schack (1827), the two men participated in a rehearsal of Mozart's Requiem on the last day of Mozart's life.
On the very eve of his death, Mozart had the score of the Requiem brought to his bed, and himself (it was two o'clock in the afternoon) sang the alto part; Schack, the family friend, sang the soprano line, as he had always previously done, Hofer, Mozart's brother-in-law, took the tenor, Gerl, later a bass singer at the Mannheim Theater, the bass. They were at the first bars of the Lacrimosa when Mozart began to weep bitterly, laid the score on one side, and eleven hours later, at one o'clock in the morning (of 5 December 1791, as is well known), departed this life. It is worth noting that the tale first appeared 36 years after Mozart's death; this commentator calls it "more than a little unbelievable".
Mozart wrote a set of eight variations (K.613) on Schack's aria "Ein Weib ist das herrlichste Ding" from the Singspiel Der dumme Gartner.
Later, Schack moved on to posts in Graz (1793) and Munich (1796). With the decline of his singing voice, he retired in 1813 and lived on a pension. He died in Munich on December 10, 1826.
Toward the end of his life, Schack was sent a letter by the former Constanze Mozart, which attests to his friendship with Wolfgang. Constanze, who had remarried (1809) to Georg Nikolaus Nissen, was seeking information to include in her second husband's biography-in-progress of her first. She wrote, "I could think of absolutely no one who knew him better or to whom he was more devoted than you ... Of great and general interest will be what you can instance of Mozart's few compositions in your operas." However, Schack died before he was able to reply to Constanze's letter. Schack was married to the former Elisabeth Weinhold, who was also a singer; she took the role of the Third Lady in the Magic Flute premiere.
Requiem in D minor
Period:Early Romanticism
Musical form:mass
Text/libretto:Latin mass
No details available.
Source:The new Grove dictionary of music and musicians
Contributor:Tassos Dimitriadis
Requiem in E flat major
Period:Early Romanticism
Musical form:mass
Text/libretto:Latin mass
Requiem (or "Trauer-Gottesdienst") in E flat major.
Source:Dagny Wegner, Requiemvertonungen in Frankreich zwischen 1670 und 1850, Hamburg, 2005